Miami-Dade Police Admit They Might Not Be Reporting Hate Crimes Properly

Miami-Dade Police Admit They Might Not Be Reporting Hate Crimes Properly
Miami-Dade County Police
Last week, the FBI released its yearly log of hate crimes reported across the nation. In Florida, the data appears to show reports jumped 33 percent between 2015 and 2016. But that wasn't the entire story: Many of both the Sunshine State's and the nation's largest police departments appear to be neglecting to submit the information to the FBI.

For example, the Miami-Dade Police Department, the eighth-largest force in America, reported only a single hate crime all year. The county contains about 2.7 million people, and MDPD's patrol area includes 1.2 million of them. That's a remarkably low number — and today Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez confirmed to New Times that his department appears to be logging hate-crime stats incorrectly. After the newspaper asked why data is so low, Perez responded the department will conduct an audit to find out if any reporting rules are being violated.

"It is the policy of the Miami-Dade Police Department to complete the Florida Hate Crime Statistical Report Form, when applicable, and forward such data to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE)," he said in written remarks. "However, it has been brought to my attention that there may have been a lapse in adherence to this policy. As such, we are currently conducting an audit to identify any incidents that would have required completion of the form and, if not completed, will ensure that the forms are completed and that the relevant data is forwarded to FDLE."

According to the FBI's latest crime-stat release, the number of Florida police agencies reporting hate-crime data to the FBI has dropped precipitously in the past few years. In 2014, 505 agencies sent the FBI info through FDLE. In 2015 and 2016, that number dropped to fewer than 50.

Justice advocates have complained for years that Florida agencies don't report hate crimes correctly. In 2015, Rajdeep Singh Jolly, a representative from the Sikh Coalition, a civil-rights organization, wrote in a Miami Herald op-ed that Florida's major police departments were "overrepresented" among departments that fail to report hate crimes properly.

Today ProPublica compiled a list of departments across the nation that either failed to report hate crimes or reported suspiciously few such incidents in 2016. Florida departments showed up often: Miami-Dade, City of Miami, Hialeah, Orange County, Jacksonville, Hillsborough County, Palm Beach County, Tampa, and other police forces in the state made the list.

(New Times has also asked City of Miami Police for a response.)

Despite the reporting failures, Florida hate crimes hit a four-year high in 2016, spiking from 72 in 2015 to 96 in 2016. Anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish incidents appear to be up, while race-related and anti-black incidents seem to be dropping. But those results could just be a result of lax reporting standards: Miami Beach reported 12 anti-Jewish incidents in 2016, which appears as an outlier on the FBI's ledger. It's unclear whether there are actually a large number of anti-Semitic incidents in Miami Beach or the department is better at reporting the data.

"It's important to note that although statistical data may not have been captured properly, this did not impact our investigations into any reported incidents, which we take extremely seriously," Perez said. "The Miami-Dade Police Department remains committed to the highest performance standards. We hold ourselves accountable for our actions and take pride in a professional level of service and fairness to all."
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.